Another upcoming appearance for your diaries: March 2nd, I’ll be appearing on stage with a fantastic lineup of childrens’ authors as part of the Children’s Book Council of Australia– WA’s A Night With Our Stars event. Alongside the likes of James Foldy, Kylie Howarth, Norman Jorgensen, Teena Raffa-Mulligan and Meg Caddy, I’ll be talking about Magrit, writing, and all things froody and writerly. Here’s a poster, even, saying exactly that:




I’ve been amused to note that promotion for the event has referred to me as a “new talent” (although at least they say ‘talent’). It’s a risk you take when you hop genres: not every reader will come with you, and not everybody in the new field will know your track history. Still, after 16 years, it raises a smile, particularly as I’ve just been interviewed by a fellow speculative fiction author for a paper she’s writing on the subject of writing time.

So, for those of you who may be meeting me for the first time due to Magrit, or came in late, or just have some sort of vague slightly-less-than-indifferent interest in how I came to this place, here’ the potted history I provided to my academic friend:


I started writing as a way of concentrated creativity (as opposed to writing purely for self) in my last years of High School– I was starting to stand out as an English student at the creative end of the spectrum, rather than the critical, and it was a way to accelerate that sense of achievement. My year 12 teacher recognised something in me that I, perhaps, hadn’t– that there may be a germ of genuine talent in what I wrote, rather than a glib facility for getting easy marks– and encouraged me to think of a literary carer as something achievable.


At the end of Year 12 I applied for, and received, entry into the Australian Defence Force Academy– I was off to become a Lieutenant in the Army. Two days before I was due to fly out I suffered a catastrophic crisis of confidence: I cancelled my flight, cancelled my appointment, and went to University for the next 3 years to study writing, instead– I quite literally ran away from the Army to become a poet!


Once at Uni, I found myself feeling very much an outsider– I was the product of a working class, manual trades, English background, with all the prejudices and assumptions inherent to that upbringing, surrounded by people who were embracing their artistic natures and freedom of thought to what I thought was the point of absurdity (there are only so many Sylvia Plath references a working class boy can take per tutorial before he becomes a mite snappy). I saw myself as marginalised, both within my family (University was not the sort of place ‘the likes of us’ went to– we got proper jobs, we did) and within my so-called peers.
My solution was to fight back through my writing– not enough to accept the words of my tutors: I went to the marketplace. I wrote furiously, sent out everywhere, received hard-nosed, professional advice that almost exclusively contradicted the more academic training I was receiving, and picked my side: I was an aspiring professional writer surrounded by rainbow-waving dilettantes.
I was a kid, and a git.
I graduated University in 1991, took a Dip Ed in 1992, and drifted away from story writing for 11 years: I took in stand-up comedy, writing legislation, reviews, stage writing, single panel cartoons….. a lot of creation, and without realising it, a lot of experience in different forms of what I eventually drifted back to: writing, pure and uncut.
I started writing again in 1999: my wife was a fan of some bloody awful television. The Gilmore Girls stands out, but every night there was an hour where I was faced with a choice between writing in solitude, or sitting next to her trying to keep the bile down. I was immature, and selfish: I chose to write. (My current marriage, I’m a much less stupid husband: I write less, but I know what happens in Bones, and I’m used to the taste of bile.)
After a year of writing and not submitting, I became the typical overnight success story: In February of 2001, I sold the first three stories I submitted, within an hour of each other. For the record:
  1. Through Soft Air, to Orb Magazine
  2. Carrying the God, to Writers of the Future, and
  3. The Habit of Dying, to Alien Q. (No link, because they stiffed me on payment, and I had to threaten legal action to get them to take the story off the page, so screw them.)
And that was me, off into what is now a 16 year literary career, of sorts.

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